What The RKC Taught Me

Let me first start by stating that I am not an RKC.  My business partner Max Shank is an RKC Level II and has been a great coach to me.  I have been practicing with kettlebells for about 2 ½ years now.  Before that I was relatively unfamiliar with kettlebells.  Thus, I had not been exposed to the genius that guys like Pavel Tsatsouline, Brett Jones and Kenneth Jay have to offer.  Then I went to two NSCA – RKC sponsored one day workshops.  Many of these concepts I learned are not new but have been either reinforced or relearned through my practicing the RKC system.  Here are some of the things that have really stuck with me for the long haul.

1.  Quality – I’ve never been a proponent of doing high reps and have also enjoyed the teaching aspect of strength training.  The RKC has really taught me to focus on the quality of each rep and exercise.  It’s not enough to just mindlessly go through the motions and pretend that you had a great workout.  I want my clients to understand that.  Focus on one rep at a time for a few, rest and repeat.  More is not always better.

2.  Tension / Irradiation – Another way to improve quality is through focusing on tension during heavy lifts.  What feels like long ago, during my college days, I considered myself relatively strong.  I lifted heavy weights and knew that getting tight had to happen.  However, I never thought about it the way the RKC teaches.  Full body tension can dramatically improve the quality of your lifts.  From taking off your shoes to grip the ground while deadlifting, to squeezing the free hand during a press or crushing the bar with your grip prior to a deadlift, turning each lift into a full body exercise has really improved my strength and technique in several exercises.

3.  Shoulder Packing – I find tension and shoulder packing to be closely related.  Before doing my first Get Up I had no idea what “packing” was.  I simply lifted things over my head without thinking too much about it.  Now I am constantly using the “don’t shrug” cue.  Not only is this concept important for shoulder health but again improves your ability to press and move under the weight during a Get Up or press, a very important concept.

4.  Using Antagonists – Another technique point that has dramatically helped during lifts is using the opposing muscles or antagonists.  There are 3 different times that I can think of that I use this concept; Using the hip flexors to pull yourself down during a squat, using your lats to pull the body toward the floor while doing a push up, and using the lats to pull the weight back down from a press, as if performing a one arm chin up.  I’m not sure I even understand why it helps so much but what I do know is it helps increase focus and tension.

5.  The Swing and Get Up – In just the past couple of years much has been filmed and written regarding these two exercises.  I don’t feel that I need to go into too much detail.  They are both unique total body exercises that demand some skill and coordination, and can be utilized in so many different ways.  Learn them, do them frequently.

-Mike Baltren

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